Goals Summary 2018 – Wk 20

Bloggos,

This last week just flew by! Reading, writing, and helping a friend tackle some major yard projects while the weather was nice helped my time go real quick. We also finished a campaign of Arcadia Quest, which was a lot of fun.

But enough talk about fun, there was work to be done!

Last Week:

  • Publish 2 blog posts
  • Write 500 words/day on The Steel Armada
  • Finish Sanctuary chapter 3
  • Finish reading The Master Magician
  • Review Madhu’s pages

How’d I do?

  • Publish 2 blog posts
  • Write 500 words/day on The Steel Armada
    • YES! This has been going very well so far. I’m not technically writing every day, but I’m crossing the 3500 word mark each week, so I’d say that counts.
  • Finish Sanctuary chapter 3
    • Yes! Finally! This took longer than I liked, but it’s done and I’m ready to move on to the next one.
  • Finish reading The Master Magician
    • No. But, I did finish listening to Skin Game, so I feel like that’s a win.
  • Review Madhu’s pages
    • Of course! She’s making a lot of quality changes and working hard on her novel. It’s good to have someone to work in tandem with; it’s inspirational!

Weekly Word Count: 4,803

I don’t have a whole lot to reflect on today. Rewriting The Steel Armada is going well, and I have some very nebulous thoughts and ideas about where the story is going and what format will let me tell the story best. It’s beginning to look like I might be taking a very roundabout route to getting to the real story, which is somewhat disappointing. But this is also a huge learning experience for me. This is my first novel, so there’s is a lot to learn.

But, I’m not going to commit to any further changes until I get more words down. I just crossed the 12k mark, which is good, but not quite enough to start making big decisions.

Sanctuary is coming along slowly. It’s the project I work on when I’ve reached my goals everywhere else and I still have some creative juice left. That’s not often the case, so sadly Sara and Reyes are taking a back burner.

I also opened up my NaNoWriMo project from last year and proofread it this week. It’s a crossover fic of Mass Effect: Andromeda and Mistborn: Second Era, just over 52k words. A tumblr friend is doing illustrations for each chapter, and then we’ll post it as a weekly serial, starting in November. Since we’ve got the time, I’m going to start doing some simple edits and fleshing out certain scenes.

wayne and wax triptych
Mistborn Era 2 triptych by Marc Simonetti

… You know, in my downtime.

I did receive my form rejection from the magazine I sent The Cost of Rain to, so there’s that. However, I console myself that the story “reached the highest level of consideration” before being declined. It’s a professional level magazine that accepts about 2% of the submissions it receives. I’d say this rejection isn’t all that bad.

I still haven’t heard back about Lifelike. It’s been 30 days. I’m trying very, very hard not to get my hopes up. Very, very hard.

That was my week. Lots of writing, reading/listening, and nail-biting as I awaited submission news.

So, what’s next?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Write 500 words/day on The Steel Armada
  • Start Sanctuary chapter 4
  • Finish reading The Master Magician
  • Review Madhu’s pages

Thoughts

I’ve got a couple different posts lined up for this week. The Skin Game review and Editing Check In #2. If I get any news on the submission front I’ll share that too. And you know, I might just have some personal rant or observation that might eke its way onto the blog.

The Steel Armada continues! Just writing away, trying to figure out where this story is headed and how I can help it be the best version of itself. I’ll have more on this subject later this week.

Oh, Sanctuary. I want to spend more time with you. I do. Maybe I’ll finally make some headway in this department. I’ve got a pretty good outline of events, I know what scenes come next, but the plot has (yet again) grown out of my control. The whole point of this fic was to wrap up the Santa Sarita series completely, not keep it alive forever.

The Master Magician is going kinda slow. If it doesn’t pick up and end on a high note, I might not bother with The Plastic Magician. It’s all feeling a bit underwhelming, so far. But, it’s quick and easy reading at least.

I haven’t received Madhu’s pages yet, but I’ve been promised some new scenes with one of my favorite characters, so I’m looking forward to that.

It’s Memorial Day weekend and my best friend will be in town! We’re going wine tasting on Saturday and I cannot wait! Other, non-writing things I need to do include figuring out where the heck my birth certificate is, applying for my passport, and enjoying the weekend with friends and family.

I’ll be back this week to talk about The Steel Armada rewrites, and to share my review of Skin Game.

Until then, Blogland,

 

BZ

 

 

 

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Goals Summary 2018 – Wk 18

Blogland!

It finally feels like spring here in the Pacific Northwest, which is to say that you never know that the hell you’ll step out and into. This weekend was mostly sunshine with temperatures in the high 60s, low 70s. This morning? 55 degrees, cloudy as heck and threatening rain. Keep a jacket with you folks, and if you live somewhere sunny, keep me in your thoughts.

Now then, what was I on about today? Ah, yes. Goals!

Last Week

  • Publish 2 blog posts
  • Write 500 words/day on The Steel Armada
  • Finish chapter 3 of Sanctuary
  • Finish ma-sulevin Tumblr prompt
  • Get halfway through Blackfish City

Aaaaaand?

  • Publish 2 blog posts
  • Write 500 words/day on The Steel Armada
    • Holy Moley, YES! More on that in a second.
  • Finish chapter 3 of Sanctuary
    • Nope. I got close, but am still about 500 words short of ending this chapter.
  • Finish ma-sulevin Tumblr prompt
    • Yep! Just a little fluffy drabble, 500 words or so. Which was the point.
  • Get halfway through Blackfish Cityblackfish city
    • Yes! I’m hopeful that I will finish it this week, it’s that good.

Weekly Word Count: 5,341

This week just flew by. This year is flying by! How is it May already? My blogging has been more consistent than ever, largely thanks to these weekly goals updates. At the beginning of the year I set a goal of 52 posts for the year. That meant I would post at least once a week.

With today’s post I am at 42 blog posts for the year. I’d say it’s very likely that I’ll be able to check off that goal very soon.

The rewrites on The Steel Armada are chugging right along. I wrote 4,474 words last week, which totals out to about 745 words a day. Now, it was Cinco de Mayo weekend, and there’s a local microbrew festival that weekend which we always go to. And Sundays are our tabletop board game day, so really, I only wrote 4/6 days.

It was a very productive four days. I’m hoping to keep that momentum up for the whole month, but we’ll see.

Sanctuary chapter three is well on its way. It’s lagging a little as I flounder to find a good cliffhanger ending, but it’s also the last chapter before the two main characters are reunited again, so things are about to heat up.

I had a tumblr prompt to see to this week, which was a nice little distraction from the bigger projects. Prompts are nice because I can usually write them in one sitting, they don’t require much editing, and then I share them to immediate fan responses. Basically, they’re little ego boosts.

Blackfish City is very good so far. It’s also very similar to how I want The Steel Armada to feel, so depending on how it ends I think I’ll buy it. I plan on having it done this week, so keep an eye out for that.

What Comes Next?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Write 500 words/day on The Steel Armada
  • Finish Sanctuary chapter 3, start chapter 4
  • Write joufancyhuh tumblr prompt
  • Finish reading Blackfish City
  • Review Madhu’s pages

I’ve got the Cold Days book review left to write and depending on how quickly I finish Blackfish City, I could have that one up this week as well.

The Steel Armada has been going well, and I don’t see it slowing down anytime soon. I’ve got a really exciting chapter to write this week, with danger and intrigue galore!

Sanctuary is trucking along at a steady pace. Once I get chapter 5 done I’ll start posting it again, probably with an every-other week update schedule. It’ll be nice to get this out to the people waiting for it, and to finally get closer to “done” on this series.

I’ve got one more tumblr prompt for this week, which I am excited to write. The last piece this person requested was quite angsty and sad, so I’m looking forward to writing something humorous and light for her.

the plastic magician

Madhu and I are both knee deep in rewrites, but we’ve agreed to share our pages nonetheless. I look forward to reading what she’s got so far, and I am anxious as all get out to send her mine. I usually keep early drafts cloistered away for my eyes only, but I really want to get an impression on the changes I’ve made. So, I’m taking the plunge and sharing it with her before it’s all said and done. Yikes!

This week on the blog might be a touch quiet and book review oriented. Both reviews for Cold Days and Blackfish City will be up if I keep reading so quickly. Then I’ve got The Master Magician cued up just in time for the newest Charlie N. Holmberg book, The Plastic Magician which comes out next week! Only after both of those can I finally dig back into Quietus and then once that’s done I can read my first ARC (Advanced Reader Copy)!

Good grief. I’ve got a lot of books to get through.

Until later, Bloggos.

 

BZ

 

Editing Check-In #1

Bloggos,

If you’ve hung around this site for any length of time, then you’ve probably noticed that I am in the middle of revising and rewriting my first novel. Now, I’ve never done this before. I’ve edited lots of short fiction, and other folks’ writing, but never something as time consuming and soul-shredding as my own novel.

I want to chronicle this adventure. I need to. This is a very reflective and solitary process, and I think best in writing. So, I need to write down my thoughts, ideas, and concerns. But, I also want to catalog my successes and my missteps.

The natural conclusion is to blog about it! I hope you don’t mind.

Some History

The original first draft of Vessels was completed in 2013. It was 47,000 words, too short even for the YA category, especially since it’s a fantasy novel. It was accidentally YA, but that didn’t bother me. I was willing to work with it. After letting it sit for months, I read it through and was pleasantly surprised.

It had issues; what first draft doesn’t? But, I liked it. I liked enough that I thought it had hope. That it was worth working on. I printed the manuscript out and promptly put it on a shelf to sit while I wrote my second novel.

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Such a momentous occasion, the printing of my first manuscript.

Years later I finally took Vessels down from the shelf, reread it, and began the chore of editing it the best way I knew how. Which is to say, incorrectly. I approached it as I had all my previous editing tasks: close reading, circling problem areas with weak writing, and tightening it up. Line editing. Not content.

I did my best, noted where content wasn’t working, but didn’t really know how to address it. I did my edits, gave it a new name (The Steel Armada) and sent off Draft 2 to willing Beta readers.

I really must thank them for their encouragement and patience as they waded through that mess of a manuscript.

They all had similar feedback, which was good. “Val’s motivations are unclear”, “the world isn’t real enough”, “I like the characters”, “dialogue is good”, etc. Fantastic feedback, detailed and concrete. My Betas were saints.

I accepted their criticism, acknowledged it as truth, and promptly put the project away again. This time to start school and slowly work on a third novel (still “in progress”, by the way).

And then last year I decided that I really wanted to work on my second novel’s revisions. But I refused to do that without finishing  The Steel Armada first. I thought it deserved at least that much, and that I could use the practice before turning my attention to a project I thought had more potential.

I also met Madhu last year, and we began our weekly exchange of pages for critique. Each week I diligently sent her my pages, read hers, and then filed away her feedback on mine for later consideration.  I avoided the project, pretty much for the whole year. It daunted me, intimidated me completely, and with the year I had I simply  didn’t have the energy to overcome that.

2018 – The Year of “Focus”

All of that changed at the beginning of this year. You might have noticed that I’m really big on goals. I like setting them, I like talking about them, and I really like reaching them. So, I had some tough conversations with myself and made the call. 2018 would be the year I finish The Steel Armada.

So, I reread the manuscript again. I still liked it, though I found even more issues that would need my attention. I slogged through chapters, taking Madhu’s feedback into consideration, and had some knock down, drag out fights with the writer I was five years ago.

Turns out I really hate revising. Like, really hate it. I have to reward myself for each chapter completed, give myself some sort of incentive to sit down and torture myself with a manuscript I was so far away from that I didn’t really know how to begin fixing it.

I was resigned to working on it, determined to do endless battle with my former self via the time capsule of my manuscript.

IMG_20180413_160618.jpg
Hard not to be inspired by that view.

And then I went to the OWC Writers Conference and had fresh life breathed into Val’s story. I came back more excited about the project than I had been since I wrote the first draft. I sat down to the task with new insight, new ideas, and so much enthusiasm.

And as I hacked my way through paragraphs I realized that what really held the story back was how small scale my original setting was. It was too small. No one could flourish there, my ideas were good beginnings but hadn’t grown into what they really could be. And the best way to fix that was to completely re-imagine the world.

Which means completely rewriting the book.

I was in denial. For about a day. I told myself that was ridiculous, just do the revisions and get on with my life. But I knew, that damn quiet and persistent voice in my head knew, that if I put in the work and made The Steel Armada the best book it could be then it wouldn’t have to be relinquished to the role of “learning experience”.

If I sit my ass in the chair and sweat over the keyboard for the rest of the year, The Steel Armada will be a novel I’m proud of. A novel I can stand behind. A novel worth publishing.

So, here I am, eleven chapters into my revisions admitting to myself that a complete rewrite is honestly the best course of action. And maybe I’ll find the right title for it somewhere in there while I’m at it.

And that brings you up to date on how editing is going in 2018.

A Look at the Stats

Pre-Rewrite:

  • Added 8,590 words to Draft 3 since 1/1/18
  • Cut one character and expanded another
  • Extensive world building including expansion of religion and socioeconomic systems
  • Improved character development, fleshed out backstories and motivations

Since Rewrite:

  • Added 3,861 words since 5/1/18
  • Extensive world building, including economy, religion, technology; more to come
  • Added another character, impact remains to be seen
  • Main character voice is a bajillion times stronger, all characters feel stronger, more fleshed out and distinct than previous incarnations

Of course, the downfall of a complete rewrite is that I have no idea what will cross over from the previous draft and what will crop up in the new one. There are already some serious question marks plot-wise that will need some deep thinking to resolve, but that’s true of all new drafts for me.

photo-7
The Facebook image that started it all.

I’m a Pantster, that wild breed of writer that has no idea where they’re going until they get there. Okay, I do some minimal outlining, and by minimal I mean, “Val goes to X place and talks to X person. They argue.”

So, now I’m basically drafting with the vague skeleton of the book that came before.  It’s utterly foreign to me, but really nice so far. I have a general idea of how the book will play out, while frolicking in a whole new setting.

And I am having a great time, as evidenced by my word count since Tuesday. Almost 4k words? That’s pretty intense. And it feels great! Now to keep this momentum going.

What are the Goals?

Hmm. As of this sitting, the only hard and fast goal is a minimum of 500 words a day. I am ahead of that schedule right now, but I’m still sitting down to work on the new draft each day. I’m going to add a bit right after I post this and see where that takes me.

I wanted to edit ten chapters before I posted my first “Check-In”, which I did. But, I’m not sure I should wait that long before my next update. Maybe each 10k words? That way I’ll check in every few weeks. The posts would be considerably shorter too, since there shouldn’t be quite so much to talk about. Let’s go with that.

I’ll have another Editing Check-In when I cross the ten thousand word mark. I don’t think I’ll be back again this week, but I will post again on Monday as usual, and I have the Cold Days review still in the works. Don’t worry, I haven’t forgot!

Until then, Blogland,

 

BZ

The Recap – April 2018

Bloggos! Where has this year gone? It can’t be May already, can it? That means we’re almost halfway through the year! Nope, nope, nope. This is not okay.

What were April’s Goals?

  • Edit 4 chapters of The Steel Armada
  • Continue submitting short stories
  • Build a backlog of 5 chapters of Sanctuary
  • Keep reading

How’d it go?

  • Edit 4 chapters of The Steel Armada
    • Close! 3.5/4. This project has been a lot harder than I anticipated. I have thoughts I’ll share later this week in my editing-centric post.
  • Continue submitting short stories
    • Done! Both Lifelike and The Cost of Rain are out for submission right now.
  • Build a backlog of 5 chapters of Sanctuary
    • Nope. Didn’t even finish chapter 3. This is both good and bad. Bad, because I need to get this project done and off my plate. Good, because that means my focus was on original content and not fanfic.
  • Keep reading
    • Sure did! I finished twelve titles in April! Ten graphic novels, one audiobook, and three novellas.

Total April Word Count: 10,431

April was mostly me blinking bleary eyes at my ancient MacBook screen and cursing my life. The revisions on The Steel Armada have been… trying at best. I proved my stubbornness to myself, my determination to see a project through. I’m proud of the work I’ve accomplished so far, but it’s time to admit that this book needs more than I’m giving it. More on that later this week.

I’ve submitted two short stories this month, and both are still pending. That’s a good thing. The longer the stories are out, the better my chances. I’ve received two rejections so far this year, one form and one personal. I used the feedback in the personal rejection to tweak The Cost of Rain and look forward to seeing how it does this round. Submitting is nerve-wracking work, but it gets less so the more I do it.

Sanctuary has become something I work on when I have time to spare, which is exactly how it should be. I add a few lines at a time, a paragraph here and there. It’s a fun little escape and a good place to get the writing day started. I still like it, and definitely am committed to finishing it, but it is not my top priority.

Binti-Trilogy-nnedi-okorafor-e1511508509714

I read a lot of graphic novels in April, as well as the Binti novellas. Lots of quick and small stories to get me through the month and pad my reading challenge.

Honorable Mentions?

I posted thirteen blog posts this month. Three book reviews, five goals summaries,  one monthly recap, and four miscellaneous posts. The blog is seeing the most traffic ever, with April getting the most views in a single month in the seven year history of To Write These Words Down…

That feels good. So thank you all for visiting this site and reading along on my adventures in writing!

April was also a month of adventure! Madhu and I attended the OWC Writers Conference, which you can read all about. I learned that she’s a “Walk ‘n’ Talker”, as we went for a walk on the beach and shouted over the wind to discuss our stories. I took risks and networked. I met people, which is like one of my biggest social anxieties so, yeah. I did that.

the audient void no 5The Audient Void published its fifth issue, and opened submissions for issue #6. You can purchase a copy or submit now!

I’m proud of April’s word count. It’s not as stellar as March or even January, but it’s the reflection of solid, difficult work. That makes me happy.

So, Now What?

  • Write 500 words/day for The Steel Armada
  • Write 2 chapters for Sanctuary
  • Continue short story submissions
  • Keep reading

Madhu and I took a walk in a local park this morning to discuss our plans and goals for our manuscripts in the coming months. It was nice. I don’t get outdoors often enough, which was made apparent by my shortness of breath as we climbed a modest hill. And now that the weather is clearing up (maybe), I hope to take more walks.

So, what I’ve been hedging around and still won’t get into too much detail about here, is that I am going to do a complete rewrite of The Steel Armada. It’s what’s best for the book, no matter how much it scares me. The fact that I’m so daunted by the prospect of rewriting is another good reason to do it.

Basically, this was the very first manuscript I ever finished which is amazing in an of itself. But, the story can be so much better, can become so much more, if I take the bones of what I have and build something entirely new out of them.

At least, that’s what I think. That’s what I feel. What I know is that I cannot continue to work on the book the way it is now. There is no light at the end of its tunnel. And I do not want to put all this effort into something that is ultimately a dead end.

So, I’m starting fresh. A lot of material can stay, all of the characters I’ve built will remain, but the world and how they live in it has to change. And for the first time, I’m really excited about those changes.

Again, I’ll really hash out these details in my Editing Check-in post later this week, but I couldn’t really talk about May goals without sharing this decision.

Writing Sanctuary is going to be my treat to myself. If I’m meeting my The Steel Armada goals, then I can work on fanfic where there is much less pressure. Plus, it’s just fun to write. It’s self-indulgent and judgment free. I need a project that doesn’t feel like life and death.

Short story submissions are on track and I will be sure to update the blog as soon as I hear anything. I’ve got a good list of potential markets to submit to after this round, and I plan to write a post about this process later in the month. I also have some new short stories I’m slowly drafting, though I have no plans to work on them at all this month. I want to get Sanctuary and The Steel Armada done before I really focus on any new content.

Reading is still a priority, but I have a nice cushion in my reading challenge, so I’m going to revert back to a more leisurely reading pace and focus more on writing in May than I have this year so far. Expect book reviews to slow down this month.blackfish city

Right now I’m reading Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller, which is super interesting so far. It’s definitely the right book to read while I dig into this rewrite as it has a very similar vibe as what I’d like to have in The Steel Armada.

So, that’s May. It’s daunting. There’s a lot of work to get done, starting today. I have to write 500 words of a new version of a book I wrote in 2013. It sounds scary, but 500 words?

I can do that. Like, super-di-duper quick. 500 words is nothing. Which was my point in making it the goal. What’s 500 words? Pffft.

And if those 500 words go well, suddenly it’s 1000. Or 1500. It grows into something bigger than anticipated, leaving me feeling accomplished and energized to get more work done.

So let’s get to it already!

 

BZ

Goals Summary 2018 – Wk 17

Blogland,

It’s Monday, which means it’s time to talk about goals!

 

Last Week

  • Publish 2 blog posts
  • Edit 3 chapters of The Steel Armada
  • Write 500 words of Sanctuary
  • Research more short story markets
  • Review Madhu’s pages

How’d I do?

  • Publish 2 blog posts
  • Edit 3 chapter of The Steel Armada
    • Nope. 1.5 were done. I have more to say about this in a forthcoming post.
  • Write 500 words of Sanctuary
    • Done. Got a whoppin’ 1,476 on this chapter. Feels good.
  • Research more short story markets
    • Yep. I still haven’t heard back from either Fireside nor Flash Fiction Online, so that’s good. But, I’m ready with a whole list of magazines to submit to if/when the time comes.
  • Review Madhu’s pages
    • Duh-doy. It’s the one thing you know I’ll do!

Weekly Word Count: 5,164

This week was a bit of a struggle, editing-wise. I was also in denial for a lot of that struggle, which really only made things more difficult. Again, I’ll get into the details in  post later on this week. That being said, I did write about 1500 words of rewrites on The Steel Armada this week, so nothing to sneeze at.

I also wrote a nice big chunk of chapter 3 of Sanctuary, about half of it, actually. So that feels super good too. I also accepted some last minute Tumblr prompts, and wrote one of them in one session. At just over 2000 words, that felt really good. It’s not related to anything, just a little Dragon Age oneshot, but it was fun to write.

I’ve done a bit of solid research on short story markets, both pro-rate and semi-pro. I’ve got a list and couple websites bookmarked to use as resources. Once I hear back from the two I’ve submitted to, I’ll probably do a “Submissions check-in” post to talk about all of this.

Now What?

  • Publish 2 blog posts
  • Write 500 words/day on The Steel Armada
  • Finish chapter 3 of Sanctuary
  • Finish ma-sulevin Tumblr prompt
  • Get halfway through Blackfish Cityblackfish city

So, that looks super straightforward. Five bullet points? And one of them is just reading? Pffffft. Easy peasy! Oh, except I’m going to write at least 3,500 words this week? What? What’s that all about? Well, Madhu and I have challenged one another to daily word count goals on our respective projects. I couldn’t bring myself to agree to her 1k/day, but I can commit to 500 words. So… I’m doing it.

Someone send help! What have I done?

I’ll be back this week with the April Recap and my Editing Check-in. Until then, Bloggos!

 

BZ

Goals Summary 2018 – Wk 16

Blogland,

It’s that time again! Let’s talk about goals!

Last Week

  • Publish 2 blog posts
  • Edit chapters 10, 11, and 12 of The Steel Armada
  • Revise The Seasons per feedback
  • Finish reading Binti: The Night Masquerade
  • Review Madhu’s pages

How’d I do?

  • Publish 2 blog posts
  • Edit chapters 10, 11, and 12 of The Steel Armada
    • No. But, there was some good work done in this area. Turned out that, due to considerable rewrites, I had to do some major restructuring. Scenes moved around and caused a bunch of trouble. So chapter 9 had to get completely reworked (again) and I got a good chunk of 10 done. So… 1.5/3. I’ll take it.
  • Revise The Seasons per feedback
    • Done. I got a lovely personal rejection from PseudoPod earlier this month that had some quality suggestions for making The Seasons more effective. Per that feedback I added 100 words and discovered a new title for the piece: The Cost of Rain.
  • Finish reading Binti: The Night Masquerade
    • Yarp. I’ll have the review up sometime this week.
  • Review Madhu’s pages
    • Yep! Always do!

Weekly Word Count: 1,930

I also did a proof read and final tweak of Lifelike. I felt pretty good about how it turned out. This piece is one I’ve worked on for almost 7 years now (of and on) and it’s taken many, many forms. I believe this is the strongest it has ever been, and the strongest I can make it at this time. So, I sent it out for submission Saturday night.

Monday morning Fireside Fiction opened their submission window, so The Cost of Rain went out to them. I’m feeling quite writerly today with two short stories out for consideration. Got my Big Girl Writer Pants on. Woo!

april whiteboard

One of my goals for 2018 was to submit two separate short stories for submission. It’s not even May and I can cross this one off the list!

What’s Next?

  • Publish 2 blog posts
  • Edit 3 chapters of The Steel Armada
  • Write 500 words of Sanctuary
  • Research more short story markets
  • Review Madhu’s pages

I’ve got two book reviews to write and another announcement to share this week, so there will be no shortage of activity on the blog. I’ve been itching to get back to Santa Sarita these last couple weeks, so it’ll be quite nice to spend a little time with Reyes and Sara again as I work on chapter 3 of Sanctuary.

With two stories out for submission right now, I need to line up the next few magazines I can submit to if both are rejected this round. I’m only submitting to markets that pay the minimum professional rate ($0.06/word), but if I exhaust those options without success, I’ll start considering semi-pro markets. I will not submit to non-paying markets. I have my token publications, the feathers in my proverbial cap. I’m done with that.A Reminder of Horace Greeley's Past Record

Madhu is going to send her next round of pages to me this evening, so I have that to look forward to. She’s almost done with her rough draft which is awesome! She hasn’t been working on this project for very long at all but she’s been very diligent and hard-working, pumping out those pages.

Which leaves me with the glaring truth. I really, really need to hold myself more accountable with my editing goals. I need to get through this draft. I keep telling myself that this is the hardest one, this is the draft where all the big changes happen. Characters meld, disappear, and maybe even play bigger roles than anticipated. Worlds develop much further than I ever thought they would. Magic becomes less fantastical and more intrinsic to the story and world.

The fourth draft will iron out the wrinkles from this much more disruptive draft. And the fifth draft will make it the best book it can be.

That’s what I keep telling myself. I’m not sure if I believe it. And I’m not sure that it really matters if I do. The work has to get done, regardless. And I am stubborn enough to keep trudging through this process until I am satisfied with the end result.

So that’s the game plan for this week. Fairly relaxed, other than the editing. Hopefully that means I can get a lot of work done. Chapter 10 is an almost complete rewrite, but 11 and 12 aren’t. Maybe I can finally get through them.

I’ll be back a bunch this week with various posts, so keep an eye out!

 

BZ

 

The Weirdest Weekend of My Life

Bloggos,

“Oregon Writers Colony 31st Annual Writers Conference”. It has a very serious ring to it. It sounds old and distinguished and… important.  It’s hosted in this remodeled 1900s boarding house that’s completely author-themed and overlooks Nye Beach in Newport, Oregon. The conference is always held in April, a stormy and tumultuous time on the coast.

I came prepared to do work. I brought my MacBook, a notebook, and a collection of vibrant pens for color-coded notes. I was prepared to learn from someone who wrote a large, five book fantasy series about injecting my fictional worlds and characters with life.

What I did not prepare for was Ken Scholes’ boundless energy and his enthusiasm for folk music. Particularly Simon & Garfunkel.

KEn at OWC

What I did not prepare for was late night karaoke with Tim Travaglini, the Literary Agent™, in a dive bar whose moniker we decided to interpret as “literary”.

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What I did not prepare for was making new friendships and cementing old ones.

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Admittedly, the conference was more like a retreat. There were about 40 people in attendance, maybe five of which were not of retirement age. None of which were male. The three men present who were not the guests of honor were the husbands attached to writers in attendance. These writers have gone to the conference for years, some even decades! They all knew each other and spent a majority of their meals and free time reminiscing about conferences past.

As a newbie, and the youngest person by about a decade, it was a bit alienating. But, there was just enough Cabernet Sauvignon to fortify me, and when that ran out, the Pinot Noir made up the difference.

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Dousing my fears in blood red wine, repping The A.V.

My biggest goal for the conference was to “Network”. You know. Meet people in your field, make an impression, develop contacts. This is not a natural activity for me. I tend to avoid new people and social situations that are likely to demand I interact with anyone I don’t already know. If I hadn’t known Madhu ahead of time, I honestly don’t know if I would have kept it together over the weekend.

But, I did know her, and where before we were “Writing Buddies” I now consider her my friend. It’s about an hour and a half to the Sylvia Beach Hotel from Salem, a long enough drive to be really awkward if it turned out we didn’t get along. Instead we talked about all kinds of things, from our personal lives to our writing, to our hopes for the weekend.

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Me and Ken being dorks.

Ken’s lectures were mad dashes through his writing process, and though some found his methods hard to follow, I found I had a lot in common with him. We both write “straight through”, from beginning to end. Then we go back and develop the plot lines and characters in our revisions. We can also, when at peak writing performance, write about 1-2k words an hour.

It was really nice to discover that my personal strategy for writing has been successful with someone else.

Beyond discussing Ken’s process and general lack of structured organization (no outlines, no storyboards, no corkboards or color-coding) we did a pretty fun idea building exercise with post-it notes. I didn’t personally find this exercise all that useful, since I have no shortage of story ideas, but useful and fun don’t have to coincide.

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Did I mention it was stormy on the beach?

Then there was the Pitch with the Agent™. Each of us had a ten minute window where we met with Tim to talk about basically whatever we wanted. I pitched The Steel Armada to him, he asked a bunch of questions about it, then said, “feel free to send it to me.”

I, of course, assumed he said that to everyone. He did not. He did clarify the next day that, though he’s technically closed to queries, we are all able to query him because we went to the conference.

(An email sent later in the week further expanded on how to do so, per our conversation with him in the pitch.)

I treated the pitch like an interview. I kept the conversation professional, spoke about my other projects, and really talked about The Steel Armada with the most enthusiasm I’ve felt for the project in a long time.

This was all before the karaoke, by the way.

We went to dinner, managed to sit with Tim (the Agent™), and that set the course for the evening. Lots of laughter and conversation led to more wine in the library while Ken played guitar. After some cajoling Tim agreed to get up and sing with Ken, which led him to suggest karaoke.

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They sang America by Simon & Garfunkel, Tim tousled his hair just for the occasion.

Now, you may not know this about me, but karaoke is literally my jam. Naturally, I had to go. A group of us was all excited at the prospect of singing the night away until everyone bailed but me and Tim.

A five minute car ride and a u-turn later, we enter Moby Dick’s to find Newport’s finest wailing (heh, get it?) away at the mic. It’s 11:45pm on a Saturday, but there were maybe 20 people in the building, and only a handful of them were there for the singing. So, Tim and I had a couple of beers, I sang a couple songs while he lamented the KJ’s lack of Pork ‘n’ Beans by Weezer and then we argued about the hotel’s staunch “no WiFi” policy the whole drive back.

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The view from our room, the Agatha Christie.

(Turns out, there IS WiFi and Tim was special enough to get the code. Which he then gave to me to prove his point. Joke’s on you Sylvia Beach Hotel! I know your secrets!)

We were both worse for wear the next morning at breakfast, but I think it was totally worth it. Hopefully he does too.

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Nothing a little caffeine, beach view, and solitude can’t fix.

The last day was wrap up with Ken, where I made a great Arrested Development joke no one heard (there’s always money in the Apple Stand!), and then a Q+A session with Tim.

He had some really great answers to questions like “what are your options when the rights revert to you?” (aka, your book is no longer in print) and “How does (he) cope with the multitude of queries he gets?” (over 1k/month, he had to close to submissions to catch up), and “does self-publishing affect an author’s chance of traditionally publishing?” (Not really. It’s definitely not a negative, though you’re unlikely to sell self-published work, he’s more interested in what the current project is).

Et cetera, et cetera.

And then it was lunch, where my people engine officially ran out of gas. We beat a hasty retreat back to the car and drove back to Salem through some of the angriest weather I’ve seen on the coast. It was kind of nice.

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Who knew so many shades of grey could be so beautiful?

Ultimately, the OWC 31st Annual Writers Conference wasn’t what I expected. But, I put my best foot (and voice) forward, met a bunch of people, and for the first time really felt like I was doing the right thing by writing fiction. I was in my element, I was the ultimate version of myself, and I came away feeling inspired and excited to finish these revisions and finally get this book done.

I’d say that makes the weekend a major success.

Now if I can just hide away for about a month, I might be able to get all that energy back.

 

BZ